Power Rankings

Power Rankings: St. Louis CITY soar, Toronto FC tumble after Matchday 1

Power Rankings - 3.1.23

What a matchday in MLS. Philadelphia Union won by a significant margin at home, Real Salt Lake xDAWG-ed their way to three points, and Nashville SC and Portland Timbers both put in stifling defensive performances. It was truly a matchday unlike any other.

Anyway, you’re probably gonna see a few of these rankings and go, “Hmm doesn’t make sense.” For example, FC Dallas are one spot above Minnesota United FC despite losing to Minnesota this weekend.

To that I say…What is “power?” And what is a “ranking”? In the meantime, please consider how like 15 people voted here and things will be especially weird during these first few weeks. Thank you.

Lol, they’re gonna break the goal differential record by like a billion.* 

*If they can handle what seems destined to be a deep Concacaf Champions League run and MLS at the same time.

Previous: 4-1 win vs. CLB | Next: 3/4 at MIA

I’m so mad at…[checking]...Mother Nature for not letting us get El Trafico this weekend. It’s been rescheduled for July 4. That’s a fair enough trade, I guess.

Previous: PPD at LA | Next: 3/4 vs. POR

Sure seems like Seattle didn’t take too kindly to missing the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs. That or they’re finally something resembling healthy and rested. 

Either way, the Sounders flexed some muscle Sunday night, putting together the most impressive performance of the weekend. João Paulo is back from an ACL tear and looking like one of the best midfielders in the league, Héber is an ultra-capable backup for Raúl Ruidíaz, and the rest of the group is what you’d expect from a great Sounders side. 

They thumped Colorado and you can expect them to thump a whole lot of teams this year.

Previous: 4-0 win vs. COL | Next: 3/4 vs. RSL

Houston gave them everything they could handle, but the Knifey Lions had a little too much quality in the end. Sergio Santos started in place of Brenner and delivered their first goal of the season, then Obinna Nwobodo’s winner delivered the first three points of the year for a team that’s expected to get a whole bunch of points.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. HOU | Next: 3/4 at ORL

A perfect Nashville win. They kept NYCFC under 0.5 xG, grabbed a set-piece goal from Walker Zimmerman, and then Hany Mukhtar came off the bench to help add some insurance.

It doesn’t go more according to plan than that. And thus:

Previous: 2-0 win vs. NYC | Next: 3/4 at RBNY

I’m so mad at…[checking]...Mother Nature for not letting us get El Trafico this weekend. It’s been rescheduled for July 4. That’s a fair enough trade, I guess. 

Previous: PPD vs. LAFC | Next: 3/4 at DAL

After a much-hyped offseason, Orlando’s performance on Saturday, for better or worse, felt a lot like 2022. It couldn’t be described as pretty, but the Lions found a way to get the job done. 

That ability to grind out wins got them into the playoffs last year, but they never felt like a threat to go far. If Orlando fans were waiting for an instant change showcasing their raised ceiling, they didn’t get it against the Red Bulls. But hey, three points!

Previous: 1-0 win vs. RBNY | Next: 3/4 vs. CIN

Ah, yes, the high-possession-based game model team struggles to get the better of the Energy Drink Soccer team. A tale as old as time. Even still, if it weren’t for one of the worst backpasses you’ll ever see, the Verde & Black probably come away with three points.

Don’t worry too much about this one, Austin fans. Do maybe keep your eye on what’s happening with DP midfielder Alexander Ring, though. Owen Wolff got the start ahead of Ring on Saturday.

Previous: 3-2 loss vs. STL | Next: 3/4 vs. MTL

New York controlled most of the game against Orlando. But they failed to find the back of the net, gave away a penalty and that was that. They can take solace in how new DP striker Dante Vanzeir should be available soon.

Previous: 1-0 loss at ORL | Next: 3/4 vs. NSH

The Timbers won in the most Timbers-y fashion possible, creating just 0.5 xG to SKC’s 1.1 and emerging with a 1-0 win. Even with Evander making his debut, Portland didn’t look much different from what we’ve come to expect. Maybe plugging in Santiago Moreno and giving things a little more time will help them look a bit more dynamic in the future.

Also: If you’ve been reading the Power Rankings for the last year-plus, you’ll know my theory behind the three Timbers Game Types (TGT). We’ve been doing this bit for actual years now. They are…

  • TGT 1: a 1-0 or 1-1 game where the final xG finishes like 1.1 to 0.8
  • TGT 2: Mollywhopped randomly by a team from Texas
  • TGT 3: Roman candles lit and attached to a spinning ceiling fan in a crowded but dark room

This was a picture-perfect TGT 1.

Previous: 1-0 win vs. SKC | Next: 3/4 at LAFC

Yeah, yeah, it probably isn’t sustainable to rely on Thiago Almada doing that every weekend. But the Five Stripes were missing a handful of key starters to begin the game and looked sharper as the match went on, especially when both Derrick Etienne Jr. and Luis Abram got on the field.

Add in Giorgos Giakoumakis, Santiago Sosa and a little time, and all should be just fine in Atlanta. Even if that means brute forcing their way to wins with top-end talent from time to time. At the end of the day, Saturday was the best moment the club has had in a while.

Previous: 2-1 win vs. SJ | Next: 3/4 vs. TOR

If you haven’t met already, I’d like to introduce y’all to Noel Buck, New England’s 17-year-old homegrown midfielder who may just be the answer to one of their longest-running problems.

It seems like the Revs have a future star on their hands. And he’s receiving a ton of praise for moments like this.

New England have been looking to solidify their midfield and avoid Matt Polster Island for a while now. It seemed like that might come via trading for Latif Blessing this offseason. It still may, but perhaps they had the right guy all along.

Previous: 1-0 win at CLT | Next: 3/4 vs. HOU

Things started well. Even Union manager Jim Curtin admitted afterward how the Union didn’t touch the ball for the first 15 minutes or so. When Cucho Hernández (with help from a glancing touch from Jakob Glesnes) broke through, it seemed like the Crew might be up to surprise some folks on opening day.

But do you see it? Do you see where they messed up? That’s right. They scored on the Union. And that’s nothing more than a really good way to make them mad. The first game of the Wilfried Nancy era ended in a 4-1 loss.

Previous: 4-1 loss at PHI | Next: 3/4 vs. DC

New year. Same RSL. And the same Damir Kreilach.

Kreilach is back. RSL still have the highest xDAWG in the league. And there’s no reason to expect 2023 to be any different from the last couple of seasons. 

Previous: 2-1 win at VAN | Next: 3/4 at SEA

There’s a particularly MLS brand of win where you look at the goalscorers and say “Wait, who is that? Should I know who that is?” In this case, you were maybe somewhat aware of new center back Serhiy Kryvtsov. You almost certainly weren’t aware of new homegrown signing Shanyder Borgelin. But both introduced themselves to Miami in style and the Herons created a ton of chances in their first-ever opening-day win.

Previous: 2-0 win vs. MTL | Next: 3/4 vs. PHI

They fell victim to a classic Timbers game. This exact game will happen like 15 more times this season. I wouldn’t be too stressed yet, SKC

Previous: 1-0 loss at POR | Next: 3/4 at COL

That’s a rough, rough start to the season for FC Dallas. I mean, rough. They struggled to generate much of anything and fell to a Minnesota United team just beginning to figure out what life may be like without Emanuel Reynoso

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. MIN | Next: 3/4 vs. LA

Well, after talking endlessly about the Loons needing Emanuel Reynoso to get points, they responded loudly and clearly by not needing Emanuel Reynoso to get points. At least for one week. No matter what, visiting one of the West’s top teams from 2022 and picking up a win is a major confidence builder.

Previous: 1-0 win at DAL | Next: 3/11 vs. RBNY

The new kids came to play.

Heading into one of the most hostile environments in MLS (against a 2022 Western Conference finalist) and exiting with a win is about as impressive an introduction as St. Louis could have possibly asked for. CITYPARK is going to be an absolute madhouse on Saturday evening for St. Louis’ first-ever home game.

Previous: 3-2 win at ATX | Next: 3/4 vs. CLT

Well. It was all going somewhat fine until D.C. United pulled off a stoppage-time ambush. Toronto out-created D.C. United 2.2 xG to 0.9, but the breaks didn’t go their way. Even more concerning, Lorenzo Insigne left early with an unspecified leg injury. One of the thinnest teams in the league depth-wise is already in danger of losing a critical player. Uh-oh.

Previous: 3-2 loss at DC | Next: 3/4 at ATL

The caveat is Nashville, when they’re on, sort of make everyone look like that. But that’s not going to make anyone in NYCFC country feel better about that opening-day performance. There’s a long way to go, but it seemed like some of the worst preseason fears about NYCFC’s talent exodus manifested at GEODIS Park. They created almost nothing. The attack felt disjointed. And Santiago Rodríguez can’t get here soon enough (he’s coming…right?).

Previous: 2-0 loss at NSH | Next: 3/4 at CHI

Honestly, no idea what happened here. But Christian Benteke and Ted Ku-Dipietro each scored after the 89th minute and D.C. picked up a home win to start the season. Somehow, Ku-DiPietro’s goal wasn’t the latest of the bunch this weekend, but that didn’t stop anyone from freaking out.

Previous: 3-2 win vs. TOR | Next: 3/4 at CLB

I saw this team up close on Saturday and came away impressed. Sure, they got burned late by one of the single-greatest individual performances you’ll ever see in MLS (and the fact they stepped off the gas a little too far). But for 93 minutes, they were mostly in control in Atlanta. They have attacking talent, the midfield is mean, and Jonathan Mensah immediately looked at home in the backline. New manager Luchi Gonzalez’s imprint should create the best Quakes team we’ve seen in a while.

Previous: 2-1 loss at ATL | Next: 3/4 vs. VAN

Montréal struggled mightily in defense during their first game under Hernan Losada. There’s a chance that may just be part of the growing pains as the squad transitions tactically. We’ll see soon enough if it’s a trend or something that will be mended with time under a new manager. 

Previous: 2-0 loss at MIA | Next: 3/4 at ATX

The Crown played the Revs about as evenly as you can and ended up on the wrong side of a 1-0 loss. It happens. Especially when almost 70,000 people show up. A whole lot of Charlotte fans witnessed the same result as last year’s home opener.

Previous: 1-0 loss vs. NE | Next: 3/4 at STL

RSL got the better of them in typical RSL fashion. It happens. We’ll see how much working new DP striker Sergio Córdova into the starting lineup improves things soon.

Previous: 2-1 loss vs. RSL | Next: 3/4 at SJ

In Ben Olsen’s first game as Houston manager, the Dynamo went toe-to-toe with a preseason favorite and maybe even outplayed them. There are a whole lot of new pieces and ideas being integrated in Houston, and the first run-out nearly gave them a point or three on the road. There’s still a ways to go of course, but there didn’t seem too much to complain about. That’s not always the case for Houston.

Previous: 2-1 loss at CIN | Next: 3/4 at NE

The Rapids took the biggest beatdown of opening weekend and Diego Rubio will miss the next few weeks after undergoing knee surgery. In short, it all could have gone a lot better.

Previous: 4-0 loss at SEA | Next: 3/4 vs. SKC

Having 29 teams means one had to sit out the first weekend. Sorry, Chicago. It didn’t mean they had to be last, though. That just kind of happened.

Previous: Bye | Next: 3/4 vs. NYC